On the day that the Los Angeles Dodgers honored a group of fake religious “sisters” and hundreds gathered outside Dodger Stadium to pray and protest, some 2,000 Catholics filled the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in response to the baseball team’s controversial decision.
“When God is insulted, when the beliefs of any of our neighbors are ridiculed, it diminishes all of us,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez in his homily at a noon Mass on June 16, hours ahead of the Dodger’s annual “Pride Night.”
Although the Dodgers have hosted these special game nights for the gay and lesbian community for more than 10 years, this year the team decided to mark the event with an award to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a San Francisco-based activist group that describes itself as a “leading-edge order of queer and trans nuns” and routinely parodies Catholic figures and traditions with lewd and lascivious public performances.
“When we reward such acts,” the archbishop said in his homily at the Mass, “it hurts our unity as one city and one nation, as one family under God.”
The decision to honor the Sisters sparked protests from Catholics around the country, including a call from the country’s bishops for Catholics to make “reparations” for the Sisters’ “blasphemies.” National Catholic groups, most prominently the Catholic League, called for boycotts, while Catholic Vote and Phoenix-based lay group Catholics for Catholics organized a prayer and procession event outside of Dodger Stadium Friday afternoon.
The liturgy — and the controversial game — took place on the same day the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Archbishop Gomez took the opportunity to urge a return to American principles.
“Religious freedom and respect for the beliefs of others are hallmarks of our nation,” he said in his homily.
Many lifelong Catholics who were also lifelong Dodger fans say they feel betrayed by the franchise. Annie Hagan fondly remembers going to Dodger Stadium as a child and later taking her own children there. Now she says she won’t go back.
“It makes me cry. Dodger Stadium was always a family friendly place,” said Hagan, a parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Newport Beach. “Now it’s not. They’re honoring people who are blasphemous against the Catholic Church at a place that St. Pope John Paul II blessed.”
Hagan was referring to the time when the Polish pontiff celebrated Mass on the field of Dodger Stadium during his visit to Los Angeles in 1987.
Originally, the Dodgers had announced they would honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence for their charity work, but after an outcry from many Catholics, canceled plans for the on-field tribute.
The team reversed course again following swift, widespread criticism in the media and from “LGBT” advocacy groups, apologizing to the Sisters and asking them to accept the Community Hero Award June 16 before the Friday night game against the San Francisco Giants.
The team also announced it would be bringing back a “Christian Faith and Family Day” on July 30. But some of the faithful at the Cathedral said they weren’t sure if that would be enough. Still, they took it all as a moment to evangelize.
“Jesus took action. He didn’t sit at home,” said Janie Beach, a parishioner of St. Rose of Lima Church in Simi Valley. “We need to reach out, we need to show we are loving people. … our prayers hopefully will lead people to Jesus.”
Terry Wright wants those prayers to lead to a better society.
“I think we need to pray for kindness in the world because everyone is so nasty with each other,” said Wright, a parishioner of St. Rita Church in Sierra Madre. “To have someone who has been a persecuted class persecuting Catholics makes no sense to me.”
The Dodgers’ reversal not only prompted calls for prayer by Archbishop Gomez, but also from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which asked U.S. Catholics to pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart that day for “reparation for the blasphemies against our Lord we see in our culture today.”
Tom Schroeter took the request to heart and flew to Los Angeles from Houston, Texas. The retired attorney says he felt compelled to attend the Mass and later, the “Prayerful Procession” outside Dodger Stadium.
“Somebody has to stick up for Jesus and for Mary and for all Catholic nuns … it’s pretty simple,” said Schroeter, a parishioner of St. Michael the Archangel in Houston. “We have to pray for each other … I want to remove any anger from my heart.”
Sister Mary Colette Theobald, SND, says she’s not angry but is pained by the images put out by the faux nuns. She says it’s “just wrong” to be hateful toward things that are so sacred to Catholics.
“It hurts a lot, it really hurts a lot,” said Sister Theobald. “Because these things like the habit are so special to us … I’ve seen pictures of this group dressing up in horribly provocative ways.”
The Cathedral erupted in applause when Archbishop Gomez acknowledged the many sisters present at Mass. Outside he posed for pictures with some of the sisters, while others received blessings from archdiocesan priests.
Michael Breen, sporting a red Jesus T-shirt, said he came to Mass to make a statement to the Dodgers and to the world that God is still important. Concerned about the possibility of violence at Dodger Stadium that night, he prayed for peace but still retained a sense of humor.
“I asked God to please protect all the people (at Dodger Stadium), both sides, all sides, even the Giants fans,” chuckled Breen, a parishioner of St. Martin de Porres Church in Yorba Linda. “Help us stand for what makes our country and our Church awesome.”
Angelus Staff contributed to this story.